Fred L. Taulbee, Jr
on Oct. 2, 2015 :
“Pittailiniq” by Josh Reynolds is a good short story in the tradition of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan and dozens of other serial heroes. Howard dropped his characters straight into history, creating a realism unexpected in the action genre. Reynolds does this too. The visual and especially the unique and regular audio imagery really drives the story, as does the action and the exposition which is subtle, but the “show me” of the action is also paired with an equal balance of “tell me,” and the story could benefit from a ratio with higher “show me.” The action of the story—the best parts—really picks up at paragraph four, and then has a good resurrection around the paragraph that starts with “As he ran.” The parts in between are filled with some action, but also exposition, specifically information we need to process the story, but there could be the same amount of information with fewer words. However, this informative exposition is also the best part of the story, and also needs more information. I realize I am being contradictory, but it’s really the only way to explain it. After reading the story, I went back to the summary where it mentions “Inuit,” but I don’t recall seeing that in the story itself. Basically, this is what I think Reynolds has done. I think he’s taken Inuit history, culture and I’m assuming religion, and created zombies or reanimated corpses using that already-established information, and if so, then that is where—don’t get big-headed—some genius lies, if not some damn good work in a world now populated with off-the-cuff research by all of us calling ourselves writers. If I am right about this, then I think the story needs a few more direct clues to the ethnicity of the hero and time period. There are assumingly Inuit words, but the reader just knows they are foreign. There are references to the English and Canadians, but I’m not sure where that places us in time. I’m certainly not asking for a date in the text, but more hints as to the time period and where we are, easily done by possibly checking out a few of Howard’s work or more research, though a lot has already been done. I am a traditionalist, and I know I am outnumbered, but all the subtitle information that this is part of a series turns me off. I just don’t care. A good story will make me want to read more from an author, and this does that already. I don’t need what is basically an ad to read more when the story itself does such. There is at least one example of passive voice—“the sound of bones being cracked opened” which might work better described as “someone or something cracking bones open” or something similar—and one adverb—“distressingly.” Go ahead and label me a grammar Nazi, but I mention this because the masters do this rarely and on purpose. I haven’t fully looked into it, but it looks like the story is published as part of a publisher series, and publication kind of nullifies some of my quips, but if a story is going to have lasting power in a world where the ratio of writers to magazines is exactly opposite of where it was twenty-five years ago, then I expect the work to be of master quality. Overall, I would read and buy his work again, or at least keep an eye on his work. I think a lot of writers are attempting series and trilogies and heptologies to mimic their influences and what has been popular in the last twenty years, but I’m all for a resurgence of the serial, short stories that make a larger story, and hope that is what is happening here.
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)